Wichita Eagle, June 12, 2008: Report on Kansas kids: State ranking drops

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The Wichita Eagle

More children living in poverty or without health insurance and a higher percentage of low-birth-weight babies contributed to a lower ranking for Kansas in a new state-by-state study of children’s well-being.

The Kids Count Data Book, released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, shows that Kansas declined on five of 10 measures that reflect childhood well-being.

The state ranks 18th in the nation — down from 16th last year and 12th in 2006.

According to the study:

The number of Kansas children living in poverty increased from 12 percent in 2000 to 16 percent in 2006.

In 2005, roughly 46,000 Kansas children — about 7 percent — were uninsured. The number is not one of the study’s 10 measures of well-being, but officials consider it an indicator of child health.

The percentage of low-birth-weight babies rose slightly, from 7 percent in 2001 to 7.2 percent in 2005.

The state’s infant mortality rate increased from 6.6 deaths per 1,000 in 2003 to 7.4 in 2005.

The percentage of children in single-parent families also rose, from 26 percent in 2002 to 28 percent in 2006.

“The number of kids living in poverty is a huge concern, because so often the outcome for those kids is not very good,” said Shannon Cotsoradis, executive vice president of Kansas Action for Children, which collects and analyzes data for the annual report.

“When you look at the indicators — low birth weight, infant mortality, child death rate — so much of that is tied to poverty and a lack of health insurance.”

Kansas improved on four of 10 measures: teen death rate, high school dropouts, the percentage of families with secure parental employment and the percentage of “idle” teens, meaning those not in school and not working.

The state’s high school dropout rate showed the most dramatic change, decreasing from 7 percent in 2002 to 4 percent in 2006. Kansas placed second in the nation in that indicator.

Cotsoradis said the drop in dropouts was “a great piece of news.” But changes in the way officials collected data this year means “we’re a little bit cautious about that, and we’ll have to wait and see how we do over time,” she said.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or

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